The Night Watch: The Rise of the Extreme Right in The Netherlands, Part 1

In 1642, Rembrandt painted a masterpiece featuring Dutch men preparing for military duty at the height of the war of independence from Spain. Its an icon of democracy in The Netherlands, the reminder of a founding moment in history, of the values of tolerance and nationhood. But now, approaching this year's national elections, the Netherlands -- like many countries -- is experiencing an explosion of right-wing populism, fueled by the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Geert Wilders. And the nation is torn.
Two people hold flyers bearing the portrait of Geert Wilders reading "Netherlands Again Ours" during his election campaign stop in Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, Netherlands. . (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Listen to the full episode53:58

In 1642, Rembrandt painted a masterpiece featuring Dutch men preparing for military duty at the height of the war of independence from Spain. Its an icon of democracy in The Netherlands, the reminder of a founding moment in history, of the values of tolerance and nationhood. But now, approaching this year's national elections, the Netherlands -- like many countries -- is experiencing an explosion of right-wing populism, fueled by the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Geert Wilders. And the nation is torn. Part one of a two-part documentary series by Philip Coulter.

Political consultant Kay van de Linde talking about Pim Fortuyn, the father of the extreme right in The Netherlands today, and Geert Wilders, the present extreme right leader. 1:27

 

"The new forces in the economy, the opening up of borders, makes it almost impossible to protect workers nationally. And that has completely eroded trust in the major political parties, a phenomenon that you see across the globe."
-- Political scientist Andre Krouwel describing some of the forces driving Dutch voters to the extreme right.


On March 15th, the people of the Netherlands go to the polls. It's a historic election. A prosperous country that prides itself on diversity and tolerance finds itself in turmoil. The old political alliances that served the Dutch so well for a century-- alliances based on compromise, moderation and a shared sense of the common good -- those alliances are falling apart, under attack from the extreme right and a man named Geert Wilders.

"The Netherlands ours again" says his campaign slogan. He wants to shut the mosques, ban the Koran, and cut off immigration by Muslims. And lots of people agree with him -- his party, the Party for Freedom, is running neck-and-neck with the governing centre-right party. What's going on in this moderate, peace-loving country?


Guests in this episode: 

  • Andre Krouwel -- founder of voter research group Kieskompas and lecturer in Comparative Political Science at the Free University in Amsterdam. Designed the first Vote Compass for CBC's election coverage.
     
  • Kay van de Linde-- political consultant, public relations advisor and self-described "spin doctor" who worked in the U.S. as an advisor to former New York mayor Ed Koch.
     
  • Sarah de Lange -- is Professor of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. She studies right-wing populist parties in Western Europe, as well as issues around immigration, citizens and the media.
     
  • Wouter van der Brug -- is Professor of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. His work is in right-wing populism, political communication, and electoral behaviour.


Special thanks to Lian Priemus, who started a local community project to help integrate refugees into the community; and to Jonathan Bikkers, Curator at the Rijksmuseum, who let us stay after hours to talk about Rembrandt's great masterpiece, The Night Watch.


**This episode was produced by Philip Coulter.

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